Andy Laties (rebelbookseller) wrote,
Andy Laties

Superstore Returns Rate Information Released

From Publishers Weekly, March 25, 2011:
"In another filing yesterday, Borders submitted a motion to return pre-petition merchandise for post-petition credit. In it, Borders notes that as their financial difficulties increased, vendors refused to accept trade credit or returns. The retailer, which pre-bankruptcy returned 31% of its merchandise annually for credit, has attempted to have publishers ship books under normal terms with limited success."

While I have been saying for years that superstore chains return twice as many books to publishers as independent booksellers do, chain-store employees I know have been objecting to my statements.

In fact, over the years several highly placed chain-store employees have informed me that it is only new titles that are heavily overbought. Backlist titles, they say, generate very few returns because the sophistication of superstore computer systems ensures that correct quantities are ordered.

Now here is a report from Borders that has emerged in the midst of their legal proceedings, stating clearly that they have traditionally returned 31% of purchases, in toto.  That is more than double the 15% industry average that independent booksellers have reported for many years.

Had publishers refused to process the excessive orders from Borders all these years, publishers would be in much less trouble today -- because Borders would not have been able to carry so much publisher debt. 

In addition, publishers could have kept prices for books lower all these years, since they wouldn't have had to absorb the costs of disposing of the excessive returns from superstores. 

Perhaps the implosion of Borders will finally provide an opportunity for publishers to review their openness to tolerating huge levels of returns from Barnes & Noble.

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